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Stay active as you age for a healthier brain

March 14, 2018—Moving your body is a good thing at any age. Staying active into your later years has a host of health benefits, including brain health. For instance, daily activity can help:

  • Reduce depression and anxiety by releasing brain chemicals that make you feel good.
  • Make your muscles stronger, reducing your risk for falls.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range.
  • Keep your heart healthy.
  • Keep your blood sugar at healthy levels.
  • Strengthen your bones.

Getting out and about

You don't have to pick up a gym habit to enjoy life, get some exercise, and engage with your family and community. Some suggestions:

  • Walk your pets or stroll the mall.
  • Get a pool membership where you can swim or do light water aerobics.
  • Take a dance class, such as ballroom dancing.
  • Plant a garden.
  • Play with your grandkids.
  • Volunteer at the library, at an animal rescue agency or as a mentor.
  • Take an art or a pottery class.
  • Visit museums and art galleries.

How physical activity helps your brain

Older adults who are active have been found to have larger amounts of gray matter in the brain, finds a new study. More gray matter is a good thing: It's associated with better cognitive function. Gray matter controls memory, speech, senses, thinking and feeling, muscle movement, and more.

The amount of gray matter tends to decrease with age. Lower amounts are associated with dementia and Alzheimer's disease. That's why staying active is important to your brain health.

Exercising as you age

How you exercise may change as you age, but staying active is still important. Regular exercise is one of the key things you can do to enjoy a longer, healthier and more independent life. Talk with your doctor about what kind of exercise is best for you.

To learn more about aging and exercise, you can take this quiz.

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